technology

What Will Your Business Look Like and What Changes Can You Make?

Eventually things will open up fully and business activity will be flowing better than it is right now. What will your business look like and what are some changes you can make?

Technology

The use of virtual meeting technology has skyrocketed with apps like Zoom and Google Meet. This pandemic has forced businesses to be nimbler and integrate technology as an essential aspect of business operations. Other technologies that can and should be used include remote servers, cloud-based software, virtual phone systems, and electronic payment processing.

Time Management

Doesn’t the week seem like one big blur? Even though you can have a Zoom meeting with a client at 10:30 PM, doesn’t mean that you should. It is good to keep some structure in place as best as possible. This includes start times, stop times, meeting times, checking and responding to emails, and telephone calls.

Method of Delivery

If you sold products through retail, including restaurants, then now is the time to ramp up your online sales and distribution capabilities. It doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your store front, but online sales and distribution cannot be ignored. The same goes for providing services virtually to your clients. Delivering services online, such as therapy or professional services, has been widely accepted. Rethink if you need to open that second office or if you can be more virtual.

Financial Cushion

Having a financial cushion for your business and also personally is absolutely essential. The weaker businesses will struggle to be up and running quickly, while the stronger businesses can do so easier and may even be able to take advantages of expansion. How much should you set aside? A cushion of 3 months of expenses is a good minimum. It will take a while to do so, so start saving little by little until you get there.

Keep Healthy

There is a great temptation to eat more and exercise less, but this will catch up with you and rob you of your energy and clarity to make good decisions. Don’t ignore your health because it will have a direct impact on your business and ultimately on your finances.

There is so much that is unknown at this time, and it would be great to have all of the answers.

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Help Your Employees Succeed in 5 Steps

One of the common topics that I discuss when advising business owners is that of employees. From finding employees, keeping employees, and sometimes letting employees go. Dealing with employees can be difficult because we are people with emotions, problems, families, health issues, and also have lives outside of work. As a business owner and manager, here are 5 steps to make sure that your employees succeed:

#1 First things first: Slow down the hiring process to make sure the position and the potential employee are a good match before even starting. This can include multiple interviews, interviews with your other employees or managers (if you are a solopreneur, then the other interviewer can even be your wife or someone that you trust greatly), asking the right questions to gauge ethics and personality, and tests. A test can include a short demonstration of skills and knowledge.

#2 Initial set-up: It seems so simple, but is your employee ready to start working on their first day? Do they have the proper technology, equipment, uniforms, or even completed payroll information all ready before starting? Don’t waste their time because ultimately you are wasting your time and money and also do not appear to be organized.

#3 Training: Even if you hire experienced employees, they will still need to be trained with how you operate. Take the time to train so that they will perform well and feel good about their job.

#4 Set expectations: Let your employees know what you expect them to work on today, tomorrow, this week, and in the future. Also, set expectations for hours worked, time off, busy times during the year, and the like.

#5 Support: Employees will experience sickness, need to attend to family matters, and go through stressful times. Support them during their time of need to help them throughout any ordeals they may have. If you need support, then good employees will support you too.

There are many more ways, but this is a good start. Remember, success is not accomplished by itself.

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Why Does a Fast Growing Company Bleed Cash?

The irony of growing a company quickly is that it tends to bleed cash, and a lot of it. Why is this so and what can you do to prevent a cash crunch to keep the momentum going?

A fast Growing company is likely to spend more money to feed the growth of the business then a mature, slow-growing business in such areas as marketing, employees, technology, equipment, improvements, rent, and so on. The key to not going broke is to manage the process to keep the cash inflows consistent and much greater than the cash outflows. For example:

Accounts receivable: Sales growth without receiving money coming in will be awfully painful. Make sure you have billing and collection procedures in place to keep the cash coming in timely.

Marketing: There are different thoughts on how much should be spent on marketing as a percentage of sales. However, instead of thinking about percentages, think about effectiveness of your marketing so that your cash is not wasted.

Improvements & equipment: Building out a new location can be very costly, but there are several ways to minimize the risk of setting up an additional location. First, make sure that your first location is profitable and producing excess cash flow, second, build up a cash cushion, and third, obtain favorable financing or use a combination of cash and financing.

Employees: As sales increase there is a temptation to quickly hire more employees, which is necessary. However, if you hire too quickly, then the productivity of each employee will be too low for you to make a profit. A good strategy is to create metrics, that if met, will let you know that it is time to hire another employee or employees.

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5 Ways Your Calendar Will Help You to Work Less Hours

Are you using your calendar as a tool to be as productive as possible? Most people do not use their calendar in a way to maximize its effectiveness, but if used properly, it can help you to reduce the amount of hours you work. Here are 5 ways your calendar can help you to work less:

Scheduled tasks get done: When a task is scheduled there is a high probability that it will get worked on. Have you ever had the feeling that you did not get anything accomplished on a particular day? The main cause is most likely due to not having tasks scheduled.

Allocation of time: How much time should you allocate for a specific task or meeting? By allocating specific time slots and durations, this will help to alleviate the open-endedness of meetings and tasks. Parkinson’s Law states “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

Batching of activities: Similar activities may benefit by scheduling them close together or within the same day(s). For example, new clients or patients may need a much longer time slot for an appointment, which can all be scheduled on a specific day.

Schedule key tasks early on: Important, but usually not urgent tasks, should be scheduled first thing in the morning or early in the week. There is a constant pull for your time and if you do not focus on important items first, then you may never get to them.

Long-term planning: A calendar can include tasks that are several weeks or months in the future. This can include both tasks and meetings. If you can plan your vacation months in advance, which is very important, then you can and should plan business tasks well in advance also.

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3 Ways to Turn Around a Struggling Business

After the Great Recession there are still some businesses that may be struggling and don’t know what to do about it. Here are a few ways to turn around a struggling business:

Upgrade: The rate of change nowadays seems to be accelerating at a pace that has not existed in the past. This includes technology, competition, lifestyles, behaviors, and preferences. Although business principals never change, everything else around us does. Questions to ask are:

  1. Is my service or product still relevant and in demand? A perfect example is Blockbuster and department stores.
  2. Are delivery methods of your product or service in sync with customer preferences, lifestyles, and behaviors? Another closely related question is, “How easy is it to do business with you?”
  3. Have demographics changed?

Your business may need to upgrade/change any of the following: location, technology, including website capabilities, payment processing, scheduling, and communications with customers, turnaround times, product and service offerings, the type of customer you are servicing, and so on.

Marketing: Marketing methods have changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Are you marketing your business to keep up with these changes? If you relied heavily on newspaper or phone book advertising in the past, then I would make a bet that it is not very effective anymore. Even businesses that serve very local customers need to have a strong Internet presence. The best products and services still need to get the word out. Rationally, they shouldn’t have to, but this is just not true.

Analyze and take action: Take a fresh look at your business and seriously consider hiring a consultant to point out your blind spots. Most likely you are not recognizing what needs to change or possibly you do but do not know how to go about making changes. The next step is to actually implement changes.

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Don’t Change for the Exception

Most people don’t like conflict and make a great effort to avoid uncomfortable situations with people, especially those who are difficult to satisfy. It’s important to learn from these situations and consider their feedback, but you probably should not change your business practices because of them. Actually, if you listen to them you may seriously harm your business. Here are a few examples:

Pricing: There is always going to be someone who thinks that your product or service is priced too high. Most likely this is not that case as most businesses actually underprice their services. This is true in all industries, from software developers to manufacturers. If you do not price your product or services properly, then there will not be enough money to invest back in your business to support operations or make improvements.

Speed: Everything takes time. This can take the form of turnaround time or communications. Today, communications are instant, but it doesn’t mean that a business owner can communicate instantly. If you rush or perform work out of its place, then it can negatively impact the quality or your product or service. An example of this was on the show The Profit regarding a furniture manufacturer that would rush furniture production when a customer was over eager to receive delivery, but then their quality would decline dramatically.

Technology: There is always someone who will resist the implementation of technology, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t move forward if technology will help your business. You may be able to make exceptions, but you should still change.

The bottom line is this does not mean that you should over price your services or perform poorly for your customers, but to be careful not to listen to the wrong people. Sometimes you should put in ear plugs when you hear the squeaky wheel.

Are You Backing Up Your Data?

Most of us use computers for both our businesses and personal lives. What would happen if the information in our computers was lost or destroyed? Would you lose valuable information to run your business, such as the amounts due from your customers? What about the 1,200 pictures that you took with your phone or digital camera over the last five years? Here are a few simple options for backing up your data:

Offsite remote backup: There are many companies out there that will backup your data remotely and securely over the internet for a nominal cost. For instance, QuickBooks can backup your QuickBooks file for a small fee each month. Plenty of companies are out there that will backup your entire hard drive, but you need to make sure that the company is both reputable, financially strong, and that your data is secure.

External or Second Hard Drive: Starting at less than $100, you can purchase an additional hard drive that backs up your data on a regular basis. This is not very difficult, as the hard drive can be connected to a USB drive, along with installing the backup software, and now you are ready.

These are just some of the most basic ways to backup your data, but it is always advisable to speak to a computer consultant when dealing with complex issues.